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An Inconvenient Truth II: Electric Boogaloo

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / April 9, 2008

Screenshot of Al Gore's TED Talk, March 2008

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The Goracle has a new slide show out, which premiered at the annual TED conference in March. Check it out when you have a free 27 minutes and 54 seconds.

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Unlike the slide show in An Inconvenient Truth, whose goal was to dispel any skepticism that human activity is warming the planet, this one takes human-induced climate change as a given. It is lighter on the charts and statistics that we've come to expect from the former veep. But he still presents some surprising data. Some highlights:

• The record-breaking disappearance of Arctic sea ice.
US consumption of gasoline compared to the rest of the world (taken from this article in Foreign Policy magazine)
• The appallingly low number of questions about climate change asked to US presidential candidates in major debates and interviews (compiled by the League of Conservation Voters)

Gore also drops some memorable one-liners. My favorite is what he has to say about oil companies who, faced with declining reserves, are now looking extracting the planet's last drops of oil from tar sands or from oil shale.

"Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and their legs collapse," he said.

But the real point of the slide show was to inspire. At the end of his talk, he says:

I’m optimistic because I believe we have the capacity at moments of great challenge to set aside the causes of distraction and rise to the challenge that history is presenting us. Sometimes I hear people respond to the disturbing facts of the climate crisis, by saying, ‘Oh, this is so terrible, what a burden we have.’ I would like to ask you to reframe that. How many generations in all of human history have had the opportunity to rise to a challenge that is worthy of our best efforts? A challenge that can pull from us more than we knew we could do.
I think we ought to approach this challenge with a sense of profound joy and gratitude that we are the generation about which a thousand years from now philharmonic orchestras and poets and singers will celebrate by saying "They were the ones that found it within themselves to solve this crisis and lay the basis for a bright and optimistic human future."
Let’s do that.

Like his $300 million 'We Can Solve It' campaign that he launched recently, Gore makes strong appeals to American nationalism. This ad (narrated by Jerry Lundegaard!) shows clips of D-Day, the 1963 March on Washington, and the 1969 moon landing. Gore's slide show shows images of the signing of The Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, a clip of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, and, again, the moon landing. By highlighting America's collective responses to challenges such as fascism, racial injustice, and the fact that the moon is very far way, it seems that Gore hopes to flip the the narrative of environmentalism away from one that blames America for its wastefulness to one that exalts America for its greatness.

But what, exactly, is Gore proposing? This: A revenue-neutral carbon tax, one that replaces employment taxes. (Here's a fairly straightforward explanation of what a carbon tax is, from a group that advocates its adoption.) Such a tax would be a hard sell in today's political climate. McCain is firmly against carbon taxes, and Clinton and Obama appear to lean toward cap-and-trade systems over carbon taxes. Then again, given what Gore has accomplished in raising awareness of climate change, I wouldn't rule his ideas out just yet.

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